California farm workers are one of the main groups suffering from the lack of immigration reform in the state. Workers reportedly tend to move to states where immigration is friendlier and there is a smaller chance of being deported. In the past, farmers in the state were able to hire immigrant labor to work their fields, but border control has apparently diminished their workforce to the point where some farmers are beginning to lose money because they are unable to find enough workers to harvest crops. Employment immigration is difficult for this industry, but current statistics show that a large number, up to two-thirds of these farm workers, are undocumented immigrants.
One farmer involved in several generations of the work has stated that he will not be able to make a harvest if he is forced to verify every one of his workers. He has stated that he is not proud of the fact that he hires illegal aliens, but the documentation immigrants have to show to work makes it difficult to hire enough workers. There is an employment immigration program to allow workers entrance into the state to assist with farm work, but delays within the government make the program a failure because it does not allow enough time for the workers to harvest.
Growers in the state are in need of a labor source and have stated that Americans won’t accept the jobs. The difficulty lies in immigration reform and the fact that farm work is not an unskilled job. If immigration reform occurs, the workers would be here legally and be able to move freely in and out of the country without fear of deportation. Additionally, if the government reforms immigration, it could help farmers ensure that they have the workers they need to continue harvesting their crops without the additional stress of hiring undocumented immigrants.
Undocumented immigrants working in the farm industry bring specialized and much needed skills. The lack of workers in California has been a burden to farmers across the state and resulted in some of them experiencing lost revenue. An overhaul of the system could help with employment immigration and allow farmers the opportunity to hire the workers they need legally, while diminishing the immigrant’s constant worry of deportation.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Lack of immigration reform threatens California farmers,” George Skelton, Feb. 20, 2013